Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are advanced healthcare practitioners with similar responsibilities, such as diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications. However, their training and paths toward certification differ in significant ways. This blog post unpacks the key differences between NPs and PAs to help you determine which career path best aligns with your goals. What Is a Nurse Practitioner? A nurse practitioner (NP) is a licensed clinician who provides comprehensive healthcare to patients of all ages. An NP can work in virtually any healthcare setting, diagnosing patient conditions and prescribing medications. As of October 2022, nurse practitioners have full practice authority in 27 states, meaning that they can practice Read more
What’s the best way to find a great job in the nursing world?
You can start by not doing what everyone else does.
“When they’re searching for a job, people tend to do what they know,” says Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC. “They look at job boards, apply to several positions, and wait. This is one-dimensional, and the competition is tough.”
Carlson is an author, blogger, and nursing career coach known widely as “Nurse Keith.” “Think bigger,” he says. “Don’t just do what everyone else does. Leverage your talents and do what makes you shine!”
But how? By marketing yourself, Nurse Keith says—through networks and relationship building. Marketing principles will help you articulate your unique value and get your message across to the right people.
The concept of “marketing yourself” may seem strange, but it applies to you, whatever your nursing role specialty or degree level. It’s especially relevant if you hope to advance to a managerial or leadership position—because the higher the position, the fiercer the competition. Marketing principles can even be helpful when you’re applying to a graduate nursing program such as a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. You can use these techniques to articulate your value in your personal statement and interview.
Laying the Groundwork
- Identify your target audience.
Think about the ideal organization that you would like to work for, and gather information about it so you can tailor your approach. What are its strengths and pain points? What sort of support does it need? What is its work culture like (and would that culture be a fit for you)? Then when you approach the organization, you can demonstrate that you understand and value its mission and people.
- Assess what separates you from the pack.
“Standing out from the competition is paramount,” Nurse Keith says. How can you benefit the organization—and its patients—in a way that no one else could? As you more clearly articulate your value, you build a personal brand that’s composed of who you are, what you do, how you do it, and how it’s unique from what others offer. For example, your brand could include:
- Your areas of professional interest, research, experience, and expertise
- Your particular strengths in communication and collaboration
- Your attitude of confidence and pride in your work, along with your eagerness to learn
- Your ability to stay calm and focused and make good decisions under pressure
- Your understanding of the organization’s work culture and needs
- Craft your messaging.
Once you’ve identified your audience and begun to define your personal brand, you’ll be able to craft messages that will resonate with potential employers. Experiment with writing shorter and longer summaries of what you do and how you can help. Start with a longer pitch that you could use for a cover letter or during an interview. Then shave that down into an elevator pitch that you could post on your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. (An “elevator pitch” is one you could deliver in an elevator ride of 20–30 seconds.) These messages are also a way to demonstrate your communication skills.
Getting Out There
- Network in person.
Now that you’ve got some messaging ready, it’s time to start road-testing it with your network. Nurture relationships with the people you meet in school, on the job, and in your personal life: You never know where the next hot job lead will come from.
Joining a professional association and attending nursing conferences are great ways to expand your network. Strike up conversations with nurses and people from other healthcare disciplines, and exchange business cards. Keep in touch online and try to meet again in person, if possible. Also attend social events sponsored by your company to meet people from other departments.
- Connect on social media.
Keep your LinkedIn profile updated with your latest accomplishments, and request connections with colleagues, nursing friends, and others in the healthcare world. Share interesting articles or your own reflections on your feed, and comment on what others post. Consider writing an article about a topic of your expertise and posting it across platforms. Use LinkedIn to reach recruiters and make inroads into organizations of interest. Ask colleagues to endorse you, and do the same for others.
Facebook and Twitter are also good platforms for making professional connections. Facebook has many nursing-specific groups where members discuss current topics in the profession. Just don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your colleagues or employers to see.
- Be generous with others.
When you network, your message should be, “How can I support you?” Not, “How can you get me a job?” It’s also best to emphasize benefits (how you can help) rather than features (what you’ve accomplished).
Be generous. Pass along job referrals, introduce people that might benefit from knowing each other, endorse and recommend coworkers, and share your colleagues’ articles and posts. People will appreciate your efforts and will want to reciprocate.
Nurse Keith calls his blended online/in-person approach “guerrilla networking.” He explains, “You get in someone’s face, in a good way. Use Google to see what other nurses are doing. Hang out on social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. When you find a nurse who’s doing something cool, ask them for an informational interview. Take them out for breakfast if they’re local, or jump on Skype for 15 minutes to pick their brain and ask advice. Most people like talking about what they do.”
- Nail that interview.
Once these techniques get you a shot at an exciting position, bring them all to the job interview. Your interview is your sales pitch and a chance to close the deal. You got this!
- Think outside the box.
If you see yourself in an outside-the-box nursing career, such as becoming a nurse business owner, check out our interview with Nurse Keith on nurse entrepreneurship for ideas and inspiration.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, and Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates designed for working nurses. Our degrees are offered online, with optional on-campus immersions.* Role specialties include Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Nurse Educator,** and Nurse Executive. The MSN has several options to accelerate your time to degree completion. Complete coursework when and where you want—and earn your advanced nursing degree while keeping your work and life in balance.
*The FNP role specialty includes two required hands-on clinical intensives as part of the curriculum.
**The Nurse Educator role specialty is not available for the DNP program.
Carlson, Keith. “Elevate Your Nursing Job Interview Skills.” Nurse Keith’s Digital Doorway. June 17, 2019. http://digitaldoorway.blogspot.com/2017/07/elevate-your-nursing-job-interview.html#more. Accessed: January 26, 2022
Carlson, Keith. In-person interview. October 21, 2019.
Colon, Rod. “Promote your nursing career like a business.” Nursing2022 42, no. 1 (January 2013): 7–9. https://www.nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?Article_ID=1493951&Journal_ID=54016&Issue_ID=1493946. Accessed: January 26, 2022
Nurse Practitioner Business Owner. “Marketing for Nurse Practitioners.” Accessed January 19, 2022. https://npbusiness.org/marketing-nurse-practitioners/. Accessed: January 26, 2022
Papandrea, Dawn. “Networking Tips to Advance Your Nursing Career.” Nurse.org. August 18, 2015. https://nurse.org/articles/networking-tips-to-advance-nursing-career/. Accessed: January 26, 2022